Mid-Atlantic Dairy Farmers Win in USDA Climate-Smart Commodities Announcement

The Conservation Innovation Fund (CIF), Ecosystem Services Market Consortium (ESMC), and the Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association (MDVA) have been awarded $25 million by the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities funding pool.

The Mid-Atlantic Conservation Innovation Fund Climate-Smart Commodities project (the “Project”) builds on an existing partnership between CIF, ESMC, and MDVA to expand climate-smart commodity initiatives across targeted watersheds in the Mid-Atlantic. Dairy farmers will implement practices that deliver quantified carbon reductions and water quality improvements in line with verified, validated models that meet stringent sustainability reporting standards. Priority practices will include nutrient management, rotational grazing, cover crops, and no-till agriculture. Verified greenhouse gas reductions generated by participating farmers will be marketed for purchase by food and beverage sector corporations to achieve sustainability goals, including to meet net-zero goals, supply chain carbon removal, and carbon reduction reporting requirements.

“We created the Conservation Innovation Fund as a blended, non-profit finance fund to catalyze risk-adjusted capital flows at the intersection of climate and capital,” said Ashley Allen Jones, CEO of i2 Capital and founding board member of the CIF.  “USDA’s vision for the Climate-Smart Commodities program moves the conservation finance field to new levels. We’re grateful to partner with leaders across the finance, conservation, agriculture, policy and environmental markets sectors to further integrate sustainability into our commodities supply and distribution chains.”

“Our family-owned farms are a ready pipeline for farm-level implementation of climate-smart practices,” Lindsay Reames, Executive Vice President of Sustainability & External Relations said. “Our farms currently face a year-long wait list for conservation and nutrient management planning. Through USDA’s generous funding, we will immediately tackle the existing backlog of producer demand for climate-smart commodity practices.”

“We are excited to continue working with these great partners to expand voluntary climate smart market opportunities to dairies in the Mid-Atlantic,” said Debbie Reed, ESMC Executive Director. “With this USDA funding, we can expand our market program accreditation for climate outcomes on US dairy operations and meet the demand from our corporate partners for Scope 3 supply chain solutions. This project focuses on local solutions that meet national and societal needs. Working with these partners we will generate credits for soil carbon removals, GHG reductions, and improved water quality to pay producers for their stewardship in the Mid-Atlantic.”

Other partners in the Project include South Mountain Creamery (SMC), Stroud Water Research Center (SWRC), Pennsylvania Soil Health Coalition (PSHC), Virginia Department of Conservation & Recreation (VA DCR), PennVest, TeamAg, RedBarn Consulting, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay (ACB), Alliance for the Shenandoah Valley (ASV), Shenandoah Valley Conservation Collaborative (SVCC), Lancaster Clean Water Partners (LCWP), Virginia Tech Extension (VTE), and the Virginia Soil Health Coalition (VSHC).

USDA received over 400 applications for the climate-smart commodities program and 70 were selected for a total investment of $2.8 billion. The funding pool is intended to expand markets for America’s climate-smart commodities, leverage the greenhouse gas benefits of climate-smart commodity production, and provide direct, meaningful benefits to agriculture.


About Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative

Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative is a community of more than 900 dairy farm families in 11 states passionate about cultivating dairy goodness and bottling fresh Maola brand milk and dairy products. Our farmer-owned cooperative owns five dairy processing plants that process more than three billion pounds of milk annually. Our diverse portfolio of dairy products are then distributed to consumers in the United States and ingredients customers worldwide. Our cooperative is a leader in sustainability, partnering across the supply chain to deliver sustainable solutions to our member farms. We take pride in supporting the educational and nutritional needs of the communities in our milkshed through our MDVA Fund. For more information about Maryland & Virginia, visit www.mdvamilk.com.

About the Conservation Innovation Fund (CIF): The CIF is a non-profit conservation finance fund that supports the systemic alignment of capital, conservation and commodities across an integrated supply chain.  The CIF’s blended capital structure combines grant capital with commercial capital and program related investments to address critical gaps in the funding continuum for emerging market-based climate solutions.  The CIF forges close partnerships with its corporate and non-profit partners to develop adaptive solutions to natural resource challenges.  To date, the CIF and its predecessor pilot projects have received more than $3mn in development support from public and private funders, including from the USDA NRCS Conservation Innovation Grants program.  For more information see www.conservationinnovationfund.org.

About the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium (ESMC):  ESMC is a non-profit public private partnership that is transforming decarbonization along the agricultural supply chain through collective action. Our 70+ member organizations spanning the agricultural supply and value chains have collaboratively invested, tested, and launched a harmonized, standardized ecosystem services market for agricultural supply chains. Eco-Harvest, ESMC’s voluntary market program, is an accredited end-to-end digitized solution to decarbonize agriculture and to meet additional natural resource needs of corporates who are making significant investments and operational changes to achieve standards-based, reportable outcomes documenting their progress annually. The program incentivizes, quantifies and verifies (through independent third-party experts) carbon, greenhouse gas (GHG) and water outcomes annually, paying farmers from the sale of scope 3 outcomes (credits) to corporates.

CIF Contact: Ashley Allen Jones

MDVA Contact: Lindsay Reames

ESMC Contact: Debbie Reed